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May Habib: “Know what steps in your product need to be accomplished before true customer success is possible”

Know your top 2–3 business outcomes that your product can really change for a customer. They may be obvious or you may discover them as time goes on. For example, our product helps customers write clearer and more consistent content with AI. By talking to a customer, we found that they had actually lost a […]


Know your top 2–3 business outcomes that your product can really change for a customer. They may be obvious or you may discover them as time goes on. For example, our product helps customers write clearer and more consistent content with AI. By talking to a customer, we found that they had actually lost a double-digit million federal contract because some of their content was unclear. Being able to put revenue dollars around the problem you’re solving is so important to customers.


As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing May Habib. May is the co-founder and CEO of Qordoba, an AI writing assistant for businesses. The tool helps everyone at a company write using the approved style, terminology, and brand voice. May graduated from Harvard and is an expert in the fields of natural language processing, machine learning, and next-gen content management technology.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

I’m May Habib, the CEO and co-founder of Qordoba, an AI writing assistant for businesses. I got my start in tech banking and then I moved to the investing side in the technology industry. However, I’ve always been a writer at heart. I was a college journalist and spent all of my summers writing and researching.

I came to the problem that Qordoba is trying to solve — helping people write clear, consistent, on-brand content for their business — both personally and via problems that we saw in the marketing space. Marketers have to create 10x more content than they’ve got headcount and resources for. So we thought, what is a better way to do this? What’s a better way to help businesses keep their content aligned?

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

Initially, I spent a lot of worry cycles anxious about what investors might think about the fact that we’re a distributed engineering team. It’s incredible how quickly that has shifted. Now, we’re leading the pack in terms of a remote-first culture. It’s a competitive advantage in recruiting and certainly allows us to do with less.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I wish I had spent more time cultivating mentors early on. Now I think the bigger you get, the harder it is to create the kind of personal connection and investment. There’s anxiety around who in the industry knows what about your business. But having said that, I’ve made an effort more recently to be closer with a couple of other SaaS CEOs. Folks who are a couple of phases ahead of me, but still remember what it was like to be where we are. They’ve been an incredible motivator.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience are essential for success in business?

We live in an incredibly competitive time. Not only in times of competitive services but also in terms of the attention span of potential users, be they consumers or consumers at work (i.e. B2B users). Delighting customers when they interact with your brand and product is simply table stakes. You simply have to do it if you want to succeed.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

It’s not that companies aren’t making it a priority; it’s that even when they do, it’s hard to get right. So much of our actual experience with a brand comes down to the person who’s representing it. I can tell you first-hand how difficult it is to really make sure that there’s uniformity in how a brand story is told and retold. Even in small teams, it can be difficult to get consistent, especially when we expect that brand story to translate into a way of speaking, a way of service, a way of helping customers. It’s just so challenging. I think that’s what makes us really take our hats off to the brands who get it right. They serve as models for everybody.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

There’s nothing like competitive pressure to get a company to fall in line. But as we’ve seen in consumer spaces, where at best it’s one or two players, the second most helpful lever tends to be consumers who put your brand on blast. An angry customer on Twitter, even in a small market, can certainly have a big impact on getting teams to do the right thing.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

Won’t name any names here, but here’s a story I think anyone can learn from: We had a large tech enterprise customer and our champion’s team was responsible for a very important company KPI. Our team was still able to help them pull together materials for an internal presentation, which their boss gave to the CEO to showcase how their project with our product was going to directly impact that KPI.

We’re not consultants, we’re a tech company with a SaaS product. But we grabbed that opportunity because we have a team that’s trained to look for opportunities to help our customers get promoted.

It didn’t take us a lot of time, yet it felt incredibly personal for our customers. Providing slides, facts, and figures that helped them benchmark, where their project was compared to their industry, was powerful for their presentation. They were so pleased that we spent time helping them prep so that they’d be seen by management as a team focused on company-wide objectives.

Did that Wow! experience have any long-term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

It definitely had an impact on how our team sees the benefit of what they’re being trained in and asked to do. So it was great for morale and as a motivator. It also helped us create templates and checklists of what we had implemented so that the experience could be repeated with other enterprise customers.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Know your top 2–3 business outcomes that your product can really change for a customer. They may be obvious or you may discover them as time goes on. For example, our product helps customers write clearer and more consistent content with AI. By talking to a customer, we found that they had actually lost a double-digit million federal contract because some of their content was unclear. Being able to put revenue dollars around the problem you’re solving is so important to customers.

2. Know what kind of stakeholders you need to find on the customer side for those objectives to be met. I.e., what kind of team does a champion have to pull together internally to actually be able to do what you promised in your sale? If you can help them pull that team together every time, you’ll always have better conversations and buy-in, and your customers will feel more successful.

3. Know what steps in your product need to be accomplished before true customer success is possible. For example, in our product, the style guidelines really need to be well established before end users are getting a customized set of suggestions on their writing. So that’s something that we have to have accomplished before we try to get broader adoption or start pushing metrics of success.

4. Know what 1–2 things your key employees hate most about the product today. The people who have been with you for awhile and watched the product grow. They’re likely to see the gaps where a product could have been developed in a different or more nuanced way. This can help your product team ideate around the future of the product.

5. Know the top handful of feature requests that customer success and support receive right now. Product leaders tend to be focused on big features and big feature sets. But the thing that could really be rankling your customer success manager’s nerves (and, therefore, the nerves of your customers) could be something as simple as a line break not working right in your product.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

I think the lowest effort, highest impact activity we can ask our wow! experience customers to do for us is to tweet on our behalf. Yes, Twitter is a customer, but I’m not plugging them. The reality is that positive tweets that mention a brand live forever. The difficulty in submitting to things like review sites and pay-to-play recommendations or award submissions feels last-century. Real-time, recent, relevant feedback on Twitter is better and feels more authentic.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’m a new mom, so free childcare for all. 🙂

We have a product that helps people write better. If you think about it, writing hasn’t changed for 5,000 years; it’s putting your thoughts onto a blank page. Now it’s a blank page on your screen, but it used to be paper, canvas before that, and stone tablet before that I guess. Regardless, you need to have an idea before you write it down. What Qordoba is starting with is a product that is helping people hone their voice, terminology, writing style, and grammar. But we are very excited to think about how we can help auto-complete the whole process of ideation.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

You can connect with me on LinkedIn (May Habib), where I’m more active, or follow me on Twitter (@may_habib).

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

Thanks for the conversation!

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